Splat's World

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The 1John 1v9-10 Controversy

(I changed the title from “Joseph Prince 1 John 1v9 Sermon Discussion” to “The 1 John 1v9 Controversy” seeing that this position is not unique to J. Prince.  In fact I’ve become increasingly aware that its a common position amongst charismatics so it seems inaccurate to attach any one preachers name to this position.)

I list the verse in a couple of different translations:

1 John 1:9 NASB If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 KJV If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Joseph Prince preached on 1 John 1v9-10 can be listened to from [Sorry, video site no longer available, download the audio tracks below instead.]

Or individually can be downloaded in 9 parts from here:

Brief Summary:

Joseph Prince claims that 1 John 1 was not written to Christians and that the dialogue to Christians didn’t begin until chapter 2.  He claims that chapter one was written to a certain group of people referred to as Jewish gnostics. The case put forward, as I understand it, is that sins are not imputed to a Christian (cf Rom 4:8). Therefore, they argue, that it is not relevant to ask God for forgiveness, today.

You may wish to compare with Andrew Wommack’s teaching on the same verse from here. He makes a similar case.

Here is an update to this on the 16th June, 2012.  The original post I made on christianforums.com can be found here.  This thread has become quite long now so its taking me a bit of time to get reacquainted with it. It appears to cover these points:

  • Is 1 John 1 referring to imputed righteousness or actual righteousness?
  • Where is the dividing line between grace and the need for repentance?
  • Does our spirit sin or just our flesh?

Parts of the thread have “bogged down” in the age-old eternal vs conditional security debate.

All in all its proving to being quite an involved discussion.

Here is another thread I stumbled across on same topic:

Charismatic Central Forums

Another thread on Lampstand also covers the same topic can be found

One person replied to my post about an official statement made by Rhema bible college about this verse which can be found here.

The questions that I am personally pondering about 1 John 1:9 at the moment are the following:

  • Are all Christians always walking in the light or do they sometimes walk in ignorance or foolishness?  What defines a person as walking in the light?   (cf 1 John 1:6) “1 John 1:6 KJV If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:” ?  (This verse seems to be within the context of 1 John 1:9)
  • Should we confess our sins to God today or is forgiveness automatic completely independent of our consideration?  If so how are we to interpret passages such as Mark 11:25-26 or Matt 18:23-35 (parable of the unforgiving servant).  Or is unforgiveness a sin in a special category of its own?
  • If sin is not imputed to us today (again cf Romans 4:8) then what meaning does “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” have?  Could it be that sanctification (becoming a person who sins less) rather than justification (non imputation of sins) is what is being spoken about in 1 John 1:9 ?  If this is the case then why would this apply to non-Christian gnostics anyway?
  • Do we need special knowledge of church history (ie Jewish gnosticism) to interpret 1 John 1:9 or can an exegesis be obtained solely from scripture?
  • Does an unbeliever need to confess all sins or just the sin (singular) of rejecting Christ?

Comments about “hamartia”

The greek word “hamartia” which is translated sin.  An article can be found about it on wikipedia here.

Here is the original greek taken from ISA.  ISA can be downloaded from here for those interested.

harmartias 1

harmartias 2

harmartias 3

Notice the word for sin used in 1 John 1v9 is “harmartias” which is the plural of “hamartia”.


  1. David says:

    I was confused about what JP said about 1 john 1:9 for awhile to this site should clear up your questions… http://jesusgiveslife.blogspot.com/2007/08/1-john-19.html

  2. splatblogger says:

    I have quickly skimmed the article in your post and I will deliberate on it more carefully when I get a chance. I guess for me I am struggling with the “written only to the gnostics and not Christians” explanation of that verse However, I do need to update this page to explain my thinking on this more clearly. I am trying to understand if there is any longer a cleansing process for Christians after salvation but not in the Arminian sense but in what it contributes to our successful spiritual living if anything. Thanks for your response.

    • splat says:

      I noticed something interesting in 1 John 1:6 which might help in understanding verse 9. Also Col 2:13-14 (from your link) is certainly worth consideration. Will post findings back here.

  3. Michael says:

    You know what cleared a lot of the controversy over one john one nine is the fact that the word sin here is the word hamartia, which is a noun (person/place or thing) generally we should translate it to mean sin master or prison of sin. As I have been bought out of a prison the prison of sin and placed in a prison of righteousness I find it impossible to confess what the word tells me is not true. Also I find it impossible to say that I have committed an action that could be described as sin and confess it as a noun. That would be the word hamatano. (verb sin) the other words used in the new testament for sin are either adjectives ( describing a noun) or nouns themselves. Hamatano is used rarely in the new testament and mostly as mans concern is with hamatano but Jesus uses the word verb sin hamatano twice , referring to the woman who was caught in adultery and the man healed at the pool of Bethesda . This revelation by itself has transformed my reading of the word.

  4. splat says:

    Thank you for taking the time to post a well thought out response to the above post. I’ve given it some consideration and here are my findings so far:

    I have not found any direct references to “harmartia” being a prison. I found one reference that indicated that “unforgiveness is like a prison”. Maybe that’s the basis of this argument. If someone has a web reference to “harmartia” being a “sin master” or “prison of sin” please feel free to add a comment with a link to the website in question. I’m not suggesting that this isn’t a reasonable application of 1 John 1v9 but just wondering if all that meaning is indeed packed into the word “harmatias”.

  5. andrewjohnchapman says:

    Hi, can you tell me where he actually says that 1 John 1 is not for believers? Is it in his books? In the above audio, can you tell me which part it is in, and ideally how many minutes in. Thanks a lot, Andrew

    • splat says:

      Ill try and locate it when I get a chance. In the Joseph Prince series its not that far in, near beginning if memory serves me correctly. The Wommack version it starts somewhat further in.

      • andrewjohnchapman says:

        Thanks, I find it very hard to listen to him, but need to find out exactly what he says, to address a situation that has arisen.

        • splat says:

          In part 2 about 5 minutes in he starts talking about 1John1v9 not being relevant to the converted and perhaps starts leading into after 2 minutes in part 2. At about 8 minutes into this part he starts arguing against confession of sins.

  6. andrewjohnchapman says:

    Thanks very much, that’s a great help.

  7. I have just found it in Destined to Reign, p. 105, and I quote: ‘.. actually chapter 1 of 1 John was written to the Gnostics, who were unbelievers.’ That’s it, he gives no evidence to back it up.

    John says ‘if we confess our sins’, not ‘if you confess your sins’, which proves that it was written to believers.


  8. bereansg says:

    Hi, i like you, have started to write and comment on some of my pastor’s sermons. Pl visit my blog for more details.

    • splat says:

      Yes, you make some interesting points in your blog. In particular your post http://bereansg.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/24th-feb-2013-impact-the-world-with-the-fathers-lavish-love/ makes some similar points to those made in my post.

      The problem with, what I shall call, “victory messages” is that unless the preacher is able to demonstrate the same principles in their own life and also in the lives of those in association to them then are they really having victory. If not then they would seem to have a problem imparting their great supernatural knowledge to others. Jesus did not seem to have the same problem imparting his knowlege to his disciples even though they were spiritually flawed men and he seemed to achieve that in only 3 years. If the “victory message” is affecting the lives of only a select few then I question the validity of their teaching.

      • bereansg says:

        I am not sure if the message affects many others in my church but it has not been sitting well with me esp when the impression i get is there is no need to confess your sins to God at all! In fact, this message has been repeated a few times already and is one of the main tenets of ncc and bears closer study. It was recently preached on again and i intend to write about it on my blog with some new insights.

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